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Farm to table


“Even a small child can tell the difference,” said the village leader.

Dean and Stefanie Babcock, along with their four children, are TMS Global workers who minister to subsistence farmers in Malawi. The Babcocks teach Foundations for Farming, a program that shares the gospel, teaches stewardship, and provides instruction to the basics of farming.

Dean was visiting farmers who had attended Foundations for Farming classes that he had recently conducted in the area. He wanted to see what the farmers had tried, how things were going, and to offer some encouragement and advice. One attendee, a Village Committee Chairman, was showing Dean his maize crops.

This forward-thinking farmer had planted side-by-side trials in three of his fields to compare conventional farming methods with what he had learned at the training. In every one of his fields, conventional methods produced maize plants that showed pale green, yellowing, or even drying leaves and smaller cobs. In contrast, the use of self-made compost placed at the roots of each planting station had produced lush green plants with no yellowing or dry leaves and big fat cobs. “Even a small child can tell the difference,” he said as they passed by the dividing line between two more of his side-by-side trials. He is convinced of the Foundations for Farming principles, as is an entire group of other farmers who have been watching his crops.

In another area, Dean and Stefanie were encouraged to learn that 16 men and women had worked together to build compost piles at each other’s fields. “People are much more likely to try something new (and carry through) when they have each other for support,” said Stefanie.

“During our first two years in Malawi, we were continually confronted with the realities of hunger and poverty in one of the poorest countries in the world,” says Dean. “How could we help churches become spiritually healthy while ignoring physical needs? We began asking God how we might minister in more practical ways, combining discipleship with poverty reduction and addressing food security issues.

“We felt that our best contribution would be to help subsistence farmers (the majority of Malawi's population) improve farming techniques to grow the food they need to feed their families. Not only do Stefanie and I have hobby farming backgrounds, but once we began serving here, we were introduced to Foundations for Farming.”

Dean and Stefanie created a mini farm and garden area in their yard where they run trials to discover what grows well in Malawian soil. They are experimenting with bee keeping and mushroom farms to introduce into the village as a microbusiness. The Babcocks found that ducks perform better than village chickens since ducks grow quickly, provide plenty of meat and eggs, and are more resistant to disease than chickens. As Dean and Stefanie discover more and more about farming in Malawi, they share their knowledge with local farmers.

“The Foundations for Farming program is designed to heal and protect the soil by using natural fertilizers and ground cover to reduce costs and improve harvests, without the need for expensive chemical fertilizers,” said Dean. “We know that sustainable, natural growing methods will make an enormous difference in how well people eat and in how well they live.”

In a country that suffers from droughts, flooding, and constant food security issues, the Babcocks are meeting a felt need while sharing the gospel. Dean leads a Bible study for anyone who is interested in learning more about following Jesus, preaches and encourages pastors, and the Babcocks share their faith with Malawians (many of whom are Muslims), both in the course of life and through their teaching.

Dean said, “In addition to helping people have adequate food, there are also opportunities to walk alongside these farmers, pray with them, and share what the Bible has to say about their situations.”

Next steps:

  • Pray for the people of Malawi, that they would have enough food to feed their families.
  • Pray for the thousands of people who have been impacted by the recent flooding.
  • Pray for the Babcocks as they share the gospel in Malawi.